Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon. I'd like to thank you for the invitation to appear once again before the House of Commons finance committee.
My name is Marie Lemay and I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers.
The CCP and its constituent members, the provincial and territorial regulators of the practice of engineering in Canada, represent over 160,000 engineers throughout Canada. We welcome your choice of themes for this year's consultation: Canada's place in a competitive world.
There are two words that I will say often during my presentation, and I urge you to remember them when making your recommendation to the minister. These words are “long term”.
My remarks today will focus primarily on infrastructure issues, but before doing so, I want to mention two other issues where we've also worked closely with the government. I will not discuss them in detail, but I will be pleased to answer questions, if you have any, after my presentation.
I want to move now to the first issue.
Canada's ability to compete globally depends on the availability of skilled professionals. In recent years, in terms of number, self-identified engineers have formed the largest group of immigrants coming to Canada. In recent years, governments have come under increasing political pressure to ease the settlement process for these newcomers and find ways to improve the assessment of their credentials.
The engineering profession has already introduced measures aimed at streamlining the assessment of foreign credentials without compromising public safety or lowering professional standards. We look forward to continuing our work with the government on this very important issue. There needs to be long-term support from the government on this issue. It is not an easy issue to address, but it is a very important one. If we are to succeed, we all need to be committed for the long run. We are, and we sure hope the government is.
I now turn to the second issue, changes in climate and extreme weather events. Innovative approaches are needed to deal with these new realities, and the engineering profession has been at the forefront of developing solutions. The CCP appreciates the support that we have received from the government for shared initiatives on climate change, such as the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee, and we look forward to continuing our work with the government on these issues, which will also require long-term commitments.
I will now turn to the issue of infrastructure renewal. Canada's infrastructure--our highway system, water system, sewers, and bridges--is vital to our quality of life, public health, and economic prosperity. It is also ultimately a question of public safety and public protection. Yet there are increasing signs that our infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly. We need to change our approach to infrastructure. We need to change what I call the infrastructure culture in Canada. We have to make a conscious decision to increase our efforts to reinvest in existing infrastructure stock and maximize our investment. This means adopting a long-term, holistic approach, as well as implementing life cycle management guidelines for infrastructure.
The cost of infrastructure should automatically include the cost of building it and the cost of maintaining it until the end of its serviceable lifespan.
In recent years, governments in Canada have made considerable strides in allocating new money for Canada's public infrastructure. In the 2006 budget, for example, the federal government provided substantial new funding for public infrastructure over the next four years.
We welcome, in particular, the emphasis on a long-term approach to infrastructure planning, as outlined in the 2006 federal budget.
Long-term plans for strategic infrastructure investment cannot be developed in isolation. Government policy and regulatory or legislative decisions need to have input from the infrastructure practitioners. Governments also need support from the public in implementing new infrastructure policies. Indeed, there is an urgent need to educate Canadians on the importance of infrastructure maintenance and on the crucial need to reinvest in existing roads, sewers, and waters, upon which they rely daily.
It is a lot easier to invest in things that you can see but much more difficult to spend on things that are buried or on maintenance. But I guess that's what leadership is all about: making the right decisions--and they're not always the easy ones.
We are keenly aware of the need to maximize taxpayers' dollars in developing new, long-term approaches to infrastructure. For the past four years we've taken a leadership role in calling for the creation of a national round table on sustainable infrastructure--an independent, multi-stakeholder body that aims to facilitate decision-making on sustainable infrastructure. With an initial focus on public works, we would create a go-to place for infrastructure information and resources. It would bring together all orders of government and industry to gain an improved understanding of infrastructure gaps and could help governments address funding priorities.
Our association represents the private sector engineering companies in Canada. It's a $12-billion-a-year industry that employs about 72,000 people. Our brief today is also about what is really the backbone of any national economy, and that is infrastructure.
People everywhere in the world need clean drinking water, efficient waste treatment, safe transportation, and reliable energy. The bad news, however, is that for decades this country has ignored infrastructure and underinvested in its development and renewal. Today our total accumulated infrastructure debt is well in excess of $60 billion, and this second national debt of Canada is growing by more than $2 billion a year.
A quote by John F. Kennedy says it well: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Certainly the sun is shining on Canada and Canada's economy, and the time has come for us to fix the proverbial leaky roof that is our infrastructure.
The good news is that governments at all levels have recognized the problem and are now committed to investing in our infrastructure. So what Canada now needs, as Marie Lemay said, is a long-term national infrastructure plan that would cover at least twenty years. It would include strategic priorities, targets, and, most importantly, long-term spending commitments from all orders of government. We simply can't invest billions and billions without a well thought through plan.
To help develop this long-term infrastructure plan effectively, Canada will need a national round table on sustainable infrastructure, to which my colleague Marie Lemay was referring in her presentation. Consequently, as an association and an industry, we strongly recommend that $1 million a year for five years be included in the next federal budget for this round table.
A related infrastructure issue is how construction design professionals like engineers are chosen. Low-priced bidding for professional engineering services, which some governments like to use, results in what are really false economies that choke innovation and ultimately negatively affect our productivity and competitiveness. But we have good news on this front. A formal group of public sector infrastructure experts, recently working under the aegis of the National Research Council of Canada, Infrastructure Canada, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, has just released a best practice guideline for selecting an engineer--one really developed by the public sector for the public sector.
Our recommendation in this case is very simple: that Canada adopt the InfraGuide best practice for selecting a professional consultant. This will ensure that we are investing wisely in the upfront engineering design of our infrastructure.
Our last issue is Canada's international aid program. CIDA is currently in the process of de-Canadianizing our Canadian aid. We are taking the Canadian brand off our Canadian aid programs. CIDA has also abandoned its funding of infrastructure. This comes at a time when the leaders in developing countries have clearly said to all of us that infrastructure is their single top priority.
Just to summarize, then, our association is asking for four things today: first, a long-term plan to renew Canada's infrastructure; second, the establishment of a national round table bringing together infrastructure experts; third, the selection of engineers based on skill, and finally, CIDA funding for infrastructure in poor countries.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, distinguished committee members.
On behalf of Enbridge and its 4,600 employees, I'm pleased to share with you our perspectives on Canada's place in a competitive world. The focus of my remarks will be on the key role played by clean energy technologies.
Energy is a vital component of the Canadian economy, not only as a large export-oriented industry in its own right but also in powering the balance of the economy. Enbridge operates Canada's largest natural gas distribution utility and the world's longest crude oil and liquid pipeline system. A safe and reliable energy transportation system is one of the foundations of the attractive investment climate that Canada currently enjoys.
One of the challenges facing Canada is to introduce clean energy technologies into the energy supply mix in the face of significant barriers. Market forces alone will not capture the environmental benefits in the short to medium term. This is due to the cost of replacing existing assets before their useful lives are over and the cost advantages held by incumbent technologies with up to a hundred years of development behind them. I believe that selected government policy measures are needed to speed up market entry of clean energy technologies and capture their environmental benefits.
Last week, the Prime Minister announced that his government is launching the country's first comprehensive approach to tackling air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, including introducing Canada's clean air act in the House of Commons. I congratulate the government on this initiative and look forward to participating in the promised consultations to develop regulatory frameworks. Urban air quality is a serious national health issue, and a coordinated approach with three levels of government as well as the United States will be necessary.
Enbridge is committed to sustainable development policies, and it is actively investing in clean energy technologies, such as wind power and low-impact power generation through natural-gas-fuelled stationary fuel cells. However, I would caution parliamentarians to be realistic about the barriers to commercializing clean energy technologies.
The National Energy Board forecasts that renewable energy sources will only be 10% of Canada's energy mix by the year 2025. Many renewable energy technologies are only marginal in terms of economic viability, making it difficult for the private sector to justify investing without some form of fiscal stimulation by the government.
The wind power production incentive was a well-designed and well-understood fiscal measure that was successful in stimulating investment in wind power. Enbridge, together with our joint venture partners, has investment commitments for 271 megawatts of wind power. I believe the government should restore the wind power production incentive program to maintain a positive investment climate for wind power. A tax-driven alternative approach could be designed to provide the same economic incentive.
Canada's energy mix needs to be based upon a portfolio of energy sources. Low-impact technologies, such as stationary fuel cells, which provide power from electrochemical conversion of fuel rather than combustion, can make an important contribution. Unfortunately, fuel cells are not currently accorded the same status as traditional renewables. We recommend that the government extend the same fiscal treatment to low-impact technologies, such as stationary fuel cells, as it provides to traditional renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar. Power generated from stationary fuel cells can make a significant near-term contribution to cleaner air in urban areas.
In his announcement last week about the clean air act, the Prime Minister stated that reliance upon regulatory measures would be the policy lever for the clean air act. I agree that a supportive regulatory framework can effect change in investment in clean technologies in the long run and that it is likely one of the most cost-effective approaches. It will be important, however, for the government to be realistic about the long-term reliance on regulatory policy measures to affect investment in clean energy technologies. A phase-in period will probably be required for the new regulations to recognize the stranded assets problems that will be created. Investors will also be faced with a cost premium often associated with new clean energy technologies.
To capture environmental benefits in the short to medium term for clean energy technologies, fiscal measures, such as the wind power production incentive, for both renewable and low-impact technologies, will be needed as complementary measures to the longer-term regulatory measures.
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of Enbridge to your committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
I am the CEO of the Grape Growers of Ontario. I'm here today representing over 560 growers in Ontario and in six provinces across Canada.
I'm here to talk to you about a national replant program and a tree and tender fruit program. I will table the full documentation with the clerk as we proceed, if the committee so allows.
I'd like to talk to you today from the perspective of the Ontario Grape Growers. Before I begin, I want to make sure you understand that I will answer two of the questions I'm sure are on your mind as I proceed with this presentation.
I am presenting you—and I think it's probably very strange that agriculture would come here today and present you—with an opportunity where we can make money for you. This is a unique opportunity, and I'm asking you to make a real investment in agriculture in this country—one that will more than pay for itself year after year after year. A small investment will be paid back to the government through full tax revenue recovery, and the secondary benefit through economic growth will exceed the initial investment by two or three times every year, continuing forward.
From the perspective of the grape and wine industry, the ultimate goal of a national replant program is to provide an infrastructure boost for our domestic producers to assist them in competing in a global premium wine market.
In the past, government has assisted in a period of crisis, and we are there again today. In 1989, the grape acreage reduction program was the precursor to the vibrant industry we see today that has provided a solid foundation. But we need to continue to shore up that foundation.
The climate in Ontario is unpredictable and harsh.Over the weekend, we had a snowstorm just outside Fort Erie. Many of our premier vines were damaged and are no longer able to produce the quality fruit we require.
Also, there are over 1,000 acres of juice grape vines that will soon be abandoned because there is no longer a market for this industry. In fact, the contracts have been cancelled by the American processor.
By strategically replanting these areas, we can breathe new life into our grape and wine industry and begin to compete on an international stage. Ontario grape growers are going to be able to focus on planting high-quality vinifera. I don't want to take time today to give you a lesson about all the varieties we have out there. High-quality vinifera go into our wines, and there are many of them that can characterize our premium Canadian VQA wines.
Our industry maintains and looks after a detailed vine census and data-mapping system, so we know every acre of grape vine that is planted in Ontario. We can tell you exactly what variety and what block it came from. We know where it's been grown successfully and in what climate and soil conditions.
By replacing older, non-productive vines with high-quality product, we can begin to refine our industry to compete on the international stage—and we are lagging behind. We are behind other countries, such as Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand. Similar public-private partnerships have grown extremely useful in other jurisdictions around the world.
This replant program will also allow juice grape growers in a failed industry today to transition into more productive, higher-quality, and higher-valued products. These farmers are in crisis in Ontario, and without replant they'll be forced to abandon their farms.
The documents I'm going to provide today look at the economic opportunities, and I will table additional documents with the clerk, so you will have a chance to review them.
I'm going to give you a quick opportunity to understand what I'm suggesting. The sale of each bottle of wine in Ontario generates $1.04 in tax. Over the next five years and up to the next ten years, we can generate $995 million of federal revenue that can be pumped back into our economy. We are a very high-quality, value-add industry.
I'm almost at my time limit.
I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity. I'd be happy to discuss this as we proceed this afternoon.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. My name is Dina Epale, and I'm the public affairs officer at ACPD.
We work to ensure the full implementation of the UN International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo in 1994. There were 179 countries, including Canada, that agreed to fund programs addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and their families throughout the world.
ACPD works to advance reproductive and sexual rights and health at the international level, and we encourage Canada to incorporate reproductive and sexual rights and health into its foreign aid policies and programs. We also have an emerging focus on international migration and development.
I am here today to ask you to make strong recommendations to the government concerning its official development assistance and to take particular care to meet the needs of women, men, and children around the world by funding the sexual and reproductive health programs promised at the Cairo conference.
ACPD wants to commend the new government for its announcement with respect to the allocation of an additional $320 million for international aid in 2005-2006 and possible additional funding totalling $425 million over five years. We particularly want to voice our support for the announcement made by the government with respect to funding of $15.5 million over three years for the UNFPA's project to combat sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in response to an appeal in The State of World Population 2005.
We at ACPD are very encouraged by these funding announcements and the government's apparent commitment to an increase in international aid. However, despite its efforts, Canada lags behind other countries with respect to official development assistance, or ODA. Canada is among the 22 donors countries which have repeatedly promised to devote 0.7% of their gross national product to ODA by 2015. And yet, based on the OECD's preliminary analysis, Canada's net contribution for 2005 represents some 0.3% of its gross national income, or $3.7 billion US, placing it in 14th position among the 22 donor countries.
We certainly can do much better to achieve our ODA commitments and be a real leader in this competitive world, for a number of reasons. First, Canada continues to be the only G-7 country with a record surplus in 2003, 2004, and 2005 and a forecasted surplus of $8 billion in 2006. Second, the recently tabled 2006-07 government report on plans and priorities shows that the international assistance envelope is expected to be $3.8 billion in 2006-07 and $4.1 billion in the 2007-08 budget. Third, five countries today have exceeded the UN target of 0.7% GNI to ODA.
Canada can also position itself as a real leader in the world by supporting the very recent UN General Assembly's endorsement of a new target under goal five of the MDGs, which is to achieve universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. We have the opportunity to do this by using the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty MDG rally, which happens to be tomorrow, October 17, to address concrete measures and strategies to achieve our ODA targets and MDG goals.
In conclusion, the message from ACPD is simple and consistent with most of our past recommendations to this very committee. This committee is in a position to make strong recommendations to the Canadian government to: one, stand up and keep its promise to do its fair share to meet the millennium development goals; two, stand up and make its long-standing pledge to reach 0.7% of GNI to ODA a reality; and three, stand up and build on the resolution that was adopted in Parliament in 2005 calling on the federal government to set a plan to reach 0.5% of GNI to ODA by 2010, a baseline target of reaching a goal of 0.7% GNI to ODA by 2015.
We ask members of Parliament to stand up and support the development assistance bills, Bill , Bill , and Bill .
I thank you for your time.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for inviting the foundation here today.
For Canadians to maintain a high quality of life with continued economic opportunity, we must increase Canada's long-term competitiveness through responsible environmental policies. We've got to stop equating environmental protection with poor economic performance in this country. As many of you may know, last month the World Economic Forum released its global competitiveness index. Canada finished 16th, a drop of three places from last year.
Recently, the David Suzuki Foundation released a report that ranks the environmental performance of the thirty member states of the OECD. Eight of the global competitiveness index's top ten finishers also finished well ahead of Canada in the OECD environmental ranking. In fact, the poorest performer of the top economic group, the U.K., still managed to finish ten spots ahead of Canada on the OECD environmental ranking.
One of the policies that these top economic performers is employing, and that Canada has not yet begun to employ, is something called ecological fiscal reform, or EFR. EFR brings environmental factors into economic policy making by introducing the true social cost of pollution and waste into the marketplace. For example, water is substantially undervalued in this country. Some municipalities don't even meter or charge for the water their constituents use. In essence, it is treated as though it is limitless. This can, as we know, lead to cyclical water shortages, and in worst-case scenarios it can lead to contaminated water, which causes serious health problems, if not worse. Pricing water as though it were worthless is an obvious example of how the market needs correcting.
Another example is our air. In Canada, it costs absolutely nothing to dump industrial waste and pollutants into the atmosphere. The few emission caps that exist are weak, and for some pollutants, such as CO2, there is no cap whatsoever. Our air is taken for granted as a no-charge, no-fee dumping zone in a way that other waste repositories such as landfills, for example, are not. Why is that? And what are the consequences for Canada?
Atmosphere dumping negatively affects Canadians in several ways, including our competitiveness. Air pollution leaves many workers, as well as their children, sick, which reduces Canada's labour competitiveness and places a burden on our strained health care system. A smog-ridden downtown also encourages companies and citizens to relocate to the suburbs, which in turn increases transportation costs and travel times. This increases transportation distances and, in a negative feedback cycle, further diminishes the quality of our air. The solution lies in taking steps to ensure that market prices reflect the true cost of pollution and waste.
In a nutshell, one solution would be a domestic emission trading system. No money would go offshore under such a system.
It simply means that the government introduces a modest, declining cap on the amount of pollution each sector or industry is permitted to emit into the atmosphere annually. It's a very high cap to begin with, with a long phase-in period and a slow decline, so that industry has sufficient time, in the ordinary course of capital turnover, to begin to address the requirements it sees coming down the road.
Quite simply, anyone who emits above that cap in any given year must buy credits from those who have managed to come in below the cap, who have invested in technology, as the case may be, to come in below the cap. You simply buy credits from those individuals.
That creates a powerful market incentive to begin to reduce emissions and to increase efficiencies. If you introduce technological efficiencies, you in fact stand the chance of actually making money on it, as you sell your credits to your neighbour next door.
I guess that would in turn set up some other perverse consequences with respect to cross-border competition. But let me leave it there; I appreciate your answer.
To the grape grower folks, I appreciate that you have to replace your base stock. According to your notes here, it's $12,000 an acre. It sounds like a lot of money to me, and I think it is, actually, over a number of years. So I buy your arguments in some respect.
I wonder, though, what would stop the apple grower representatives from sitting in your seat tomorrow and saying, “We can't compete any longer, with the people like the grape growers, or with the product we have, so why is it you won't fund us for a similar kind of replanting program?”
Professional engineers certainly have a role to play in the public arena. Indeed, the reason I wanted to get elected was to make that voice heard.
We have addressed a number of different topics in this Committee, especially the government's environmental policy. We are seeing a whole mix of things in this area. They talk about preventing smog, on the one hand, and climate change, on the other. And yet, these are two separate things.
Witnesses have come before this Committee to say that by reducing smog, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, I think it's actually the reverse, and I would like to hear the opinion of engineers on this. It is possible to use fossil fuels, to filter the particles before release and, in so doing, resolve the smog problem, since no pollutant is actually released into the atmosphere. However, CO2 does pass through these filters and ends up in the atmosphere.
So, we have resolved only one of the two problems. However, if we proceed in the reverse manner -- in other words, reduce the consumption of fossil fuels to a minimum -- CO2 will never be released and it won't need to be recovered. The same applies to pollutants.
Do you think that is a realistic analysis from a scientific perspective, or is this just one opinion among many, as some say?
Actually, we have some national water quality guidelines, but they are only guidelines. They're not enforceable. So we have a patchwork quilt of provincial and municipal water standards. In far too many instances, we have no water standards at all.
One solution would be to look to the countries that finished ahead of Canada, both in the economic ranking that the World Economic Forum recently released and in the OECD environmental ranking. Many of these countries have a national environmental plan or strategy, something that creates a comprehensive and consistent level of standards for air, water, land, and maintenance of biodiversity. This would be something that the feds and the provinces get together on and the provinces buy into. The buy-in is essential.
This would level the playing field. It would also do away with some of the concerns that arise in various jurisdictions. They are concerned that if they introduce meaningful standards in one area, then economic actors will go next door to another area, where they can operate less expensively or in a less responsible manner.
So the answer is to put in place enforceable national standards.
All right. I want to start with Dina Epale.
The Conservatives are going to have a little when I mention this, but I don't think you should hold too much hope from this supposed $320 million boost to foreign aid as a sign of this government meeting our millennium development targets, because in fact, as you know, the $320 million—which should have been $500 million—was what the NDP managed to negotiate out of the Liberals during the last minority Liberal government, which these Conservatives did agree to implement, although they did fall short of the target. So I think we're still back at square one, which is how we failed with the Liberals, and now we don't have a signal from the Conservatives.
How do we get them to actually understand the importance of our international obligations and to start putting in place a formula that will meet our targets?
I think that's a very important question, because one of the things that was mentioned in our recommendations is that we have often heard Canada talking about meeting its 0.7% GNI to ODA target by 2015. As you are well aware, last year in the House of Commons it was agreed, or the House supported a motion, to figure out how Canada is going to achieve that benchmark point in 2010. So that is something. We're not talking of 2015, because we have to make sure we achieve something by 2010 if we are going to talk about 2015.
So one of our recommendations right here is for very concrete steps to be taken to ensure what we can do to achieve what was discussed, either at the national level or in the Commons, or what needs to be done to achieve this often talked about 0.7% GNI to ODA target.
It's very striking to me when you hear of Canada's economic situation, that the country is a very healthy one among the other G-7 countries but that we are lagging behind. Just today, Sweden, which happens to have a conservative government, has pledged 1% of GNI to international development. Well, that is our recommendation here, that concrete steps be taken to either meet the 0.5% target that was discussed in the House of Commons or meet the OECD's average country commitment of 0.42% of GNI.
The World Economic Forum ranking--I want to be very even-handed about this--much to my chagrin, didn't take environmental sustainability into account as one of the indices in ranking the countries on their competitiveness. Of course, in the OECD ranking we did late last year, we took environmental performance into account. But the fact that eight countries finished well ahead of Canada in both the competitive ranking and the environmental ranking shows at a minimum that the two are not mutually exclusive. You can do well by the bottom line, by the pocketbook, and you can do well by your citizens and the natural geography of your country.
It may well be, as we assert at the Suzuki Foundation, that there's a positive relationship between environmental responsibility and economic competitiveness. That's born of the fact that you use your resources more efficiently if you're operating in an environmentally sustainable manner. Efficiency always helps businesses thrive, if not in the very short term, certainly in the medium and long terms. So that's probably one of the biggest payoffs if you look beyond the very short term.
You also tend to attract good workers from within your country and around the world. There are these rankings of best places to work and live. You attract that kind of thing, and you maintain a healthy, fit, high quality of life workforce and citizenry. Those are probably some of the first things that come to mind right now on the co-benefits there.
This is an extremely complex issue that involves a number of levels of responsibility, since it's connected to immigration, employment, and the provinces. Where regulated professions are concerned, the professional associations become additional stakeholders. So there is a wide mix of stakeholders who are all extremely important.
We support this action, because as far as engineers are concerned, we have already begun a process aimed at bringing all the stakeholders together at the same table: the professional associations, national representatives, including our organizations, representatives of provincial and federal governments, and immigration agencies. By bringing all of these people together, we have succeeded in finding solutions which we are in the process of implementing.
It is a real challenge, because it's a problem that takes a long time to resolve. We will not see the impact of the solutions currently being implemented for a number of years. But we must be patient and sustain our efforts. The federal government is another player, because you simply can't ignore immigration; it's a reality.
In Quebec, though, the provincial government plays a role, as a result of its agreement, that the other provinces do not.
Ms. Marie Lemay: Yes, that's absolutely correct.
: I doubt that we will simplify the process if we add another player. In any case, I wish you the best of luck, because I realize how difficult it is.
I have a question now for Mr. Szmurlo from Enbridge Inc.
You referred to two programs that have been abolished: the Wind Power Production Incentive, or WPPI, and the Renewable Power Production Incentive, or RPPI.
When were they abolished and by which government?
You go on to say this:
||Should the government decide to introduce tax-based fiscal incentives for WPPI and alternative energy technologies, rather than the contribution-based incentives offered in the past, it would be important to ensure the incentives are not dependent on the taxation status of the investors.
I certainly understand what you mean; in other words, rather than providing cash contributions, people would be given a tax credit. But what does that have to do with the taxation status of the investors?
You then conclude by saying:
||Refundability of earned tax credits, which are provided to some tax incentives for research and development, would resolve that shortcoming.
A number of organizations have come here to complain about the fact that tax incentives for research and development are not refundable. Can you tell me what exactly you're referring to here?
The incentive programs have not necessarily been abolished, but they're under review. We would hope that this review would result in the incentives being reinstated, as they have been in previous years, taking on the same form and nature as the previous wind power production incentive.
With respect to the fiscal status of the companies involved, I think the industry would be best served if the tax status of those companies were irrelevant to the amount of incentive they get. It might be best for Enbridge if there were a tax-based thing that depended on taxability. We're currently taxable. But from the industry's perspective, it would be better if all people were allowed to compete for wind power projects, including those who aren't currently taxable. Even for a company like Enbridge, it's not always beneficial to have a program that's tax-based. For instance, in the United States, we do not participate in wind power projects, because the U.S. incentive is tax based rather than cashflow based, as the wind power production incentive is, and we don't happen to be taxable at the moment in the United States. So we would argue for a level playing field, with all corporations, big and small, taxable and non-taxable, receiving the same sort of incentive.
I wanted to answer the honourable John McKay directly by suggesting that this program we're proposing for grapes will actually pay for the tender fruit and apples as well. The tax is generated from the grapes that go into wine. This is a huge value to the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
To answer the second part of your question, the program affects six provinces in Canada: B.C., Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario, which is the largest player and the largest take in the industry. The majority of the land is tender fruit, apples and grapes.
I'll give you an example. A thousand acres of juice grapes, if transitioned into the higher-quality grapes, will produce $5 million in revenue to the federal government. We're asking the federal government to commit $3 million each year for the next seven years. That's a pretty good return on investment: you invest $3 million and in one year you get $5 million back. This will pay for the transition of the apple industry in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, B.C., and Ontario. At the same time, it will assist us, as grape growers, to transition to a higher-quality grape that will provide all of us—all of us—with more taxes to spend in the future.
Again, it's interesting to look at the statistics on the 1989 pull-out program, which was established to transition the grape industry. If anybody remembers the varietals that then went into--and I'm sure nobody in this room drank Baby Duck, or at least won't admit to it....
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mrs. Debbie Zimmerman: But I think that clearly, the industry went from $2.5 million in 1989 to $53 million today because of the investment the federal government made in pulling out the grapes, actually pulling the grapes out, and paying the growers. What we're suggesting today is that you're going to help us put the higher-quality grapes back into the ground. We're asking you for one-sixth of what it costs to transition to a grape variety pull-out program, or a grape transition. We don't call it “pull-out” anymore, and that's the distinction. It's a transition into planting vines, rather than pulling them out and being paid to get out of the industry.
B.C. has had a provincial government program for fifteen years already. What they're asking for, particularly for their apple industry, is to transition to a varietal that's more competitive on the world market.
Part of our challenge as well, and I used the statistics earlier about France, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand, is that they're out-competing us on the world stage. We're asking the government to invest in our marketplace to make us as competitive.
I could answer all the questions you've asked all the presenters today. We will and are prepared to enter into a public-private partnerships where the return on the investment goes back to the Government of Ontario. We use wind machines to offset weather conditions. We are environmentally friendly. And you know what, we want to be competitive, and we're asking for an opportunity to do that with an investment from the federal government. It would also require the provincial government's support.
Thank you, first of all, to our witnesses for being here. You have been gracious in preparing briefs, which have been forwarded to the committee. We thank you for that. You've also been asked to prepare your presentations and limit them to five minutes. I will give you a visual cue when a minute or less remains, and then we'll cut you off, as you've no doubt witnessed in the past. That is, of course, to allow for our panellists to exchange questions and comments with you thereafter.
We will commence with the representative from the Canadian Health Food Association, Valerie Bell.
Welcome, and five minutes are for you.
The Canadian Health Food Association is a national not-for-profit association. We represent over 80% of the natural products industry. Our members include retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, importers, and distributors involved within the industry. Our products are wide-ranging and include vitamins, minerals, herbal products, homeopathics, traditional medicines, and natural and organic products. These all help lay the foundation for good nutrition and ongoing health and well-being in the Canadian population.
Our vision for our industry is to be the primary destination for Canadians seeking optimal health and quality of life. Our industry is a $3.5 billion industry, with over 70% of the sales coming from natural health products and supplements. Our industry employs about 25,000 Canadians across the supply chain and has become a significant contributor to the economy. The industry has more than doubled in the last five years, and nearly 80% of the products are actually manufactured by Canadian manufacturers. We have approximately 10,000 retail establishments across the country offering these products.
Consumer knowledge and acceptance of our products is continuing to grow, and self-care among Canadians has increased to over three-quarters of the Canadian public. In the last year, 44% of Canadians indicated that they have practised more self-care using our products than they had in previous years, and 52% of them said they would continue to increase this in the future.
In January 2004 new regulations were introduced to ensure the safety, efficacy, and quality of our products sold in Canada, including the licensing of all manufacturers, importers, packagers, and labellers, as well as applications for every individual product. Complete labelling information must now be available on all products, including a full ingredient disclosure, the range of active ingredients, warnings, etc.
Canada's world leadership in this area, in recognizing and regulating natural health products, occurs just as scientific research is also confirming the role of these products in achieving health benefits and the resulting cost savings to health care. A growing body of evidence internationally continues to demonstrate that increased use of natural health products can improve and achieve a magnitude of savings for the health care system in this country measured in the billions of dollars.
Natural health products usage can also help to significantly reduce wait times by more than 50% by keeping people healthy and out of hospitals. A recent study has demonstrated that a simple, cost-effective prenatal multiple vitamin taken daily by women of child-bearing age can drastically reduce the range of birth defects that affect one in every seventeen babies across this country. That multivitamin reduces those birth defects by over 50% in every instance.
Other research has demonstrated $6 billion in savings in cardiovascular disease treatment with the use of omega-3 fatty acids, flax seed, and folic acid, and another $3.2 billion from the use of a plant sterol that can decrease the risk of heart disease by over 20%. In the United States, two recent studies have shown that there is over $16.2 billion in savings from the health care system with calcium and folic acid.
We are asking for the following: that natural health products be a medically deductible expense, like their pharmaceutical cousins; that the GST be removed from natural health products to stimulate greater self-care; and that the natural health products directorate have adequate and sustained funding to properly evaluate and enforce the regulations. We'd also like additional research dollars and incentives available to companies active in this sector to support ongoing research in this area.
That's all I'll say at this point. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Our subject today is not the physical health but the cultural health of our great country. I think we've got the solution to better jobs. Reading books, we know, leads to better jobs, higher income, and a more productive economy. So while the pills are being taken, we also suggest at least one book a month to keep our cultural life active.
We would like to thank the Government of Canada and the Minister of Finance for their continuing support of our industry--these programs were begun and rationalized under the Mulroney government of the 1980s, and there have been excellent results in terms of both the cultural output and the financial output of our industry. We have created 6,000 highly skilled jobs directly in the industry, not to speak of the great uptick in knowledge and capacity that readers of our books have experienced.
We supply direct employment to 16,000 writers in the country. There are writers and publishers in every province and in most communities. The publishing industry is the most cost-effective and competitive of all the cultural industries. As a bonus, in addition to all of this, it's an industry that pays for itself. The taxes collected from the publishing industry and the spinoff activities from the cultural industries in terms of the freelancers we use, the printers we employ, the designers, the typesetters--all of this creates a ripple effect that we calculate leads to over $1 billion across Canada in employment and in economic activity.
So we come before the committee, not asking for more support, but we are asking for the program that's in place and has been in place for several decades to be continued. We're facing a number of challenges, but the main issue for us now that the dollar is so robust is that we can't outsource Canadian culture. We have to buy Canadian culture with the big Canadian loonie right here in Canada, and if we're unable to do that--and we do that with some modest support from the Government of Canada--all the books Canadians read will be determined by choices made by editors in New York, or Frankfurt, or London, or Paris. What we're asking for is continuation of programs that leave Canadian publishers, the Canadian-owned sector of the market, with a level playing field.
We are an association of entrepreneurs. We're independent. We tend to be small and medium-sized businesses. We want to publish, as we do now, 85% of Canadian authors, but we would like to do it in a very fair way.
That's enough for me. Thanks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
I am Michael Van Every. I'm delighted to be here today speaking for the almost 40,000 part-time horse owners and breeders and the close to 100,000 trainers, drivers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hot walkers, blacksmiths, feed and equipment suppliers, racetrack workers, and others who earn their livelihood from this industry.
Some of these work at one of the country's racetracks, while many others are employed at the breeding farms throughout rural Canada. I want to make it clear that I am not representing the few ultra-rich horse owners whose full-time racing operations are not subject to the provisions of section 31 of the Income Tax Act. As you may know, section 31 restricts the deduction of losses incurred by part-time owners and breeders to an amount of $8,750 per year. Today's owners and breeders are middle-class income earners looking to combine their interest in horses with a business investment.
While we are middle-class people, horse breeding and racing remains an expensive investment. The average price of a thoroughbred horse sold this past year to Canadian owners averaged $14,500, plus the additional costs of board, feed, training, and care for the animals. Start-up costs in this industry are significant; profits can't realistically be expected for several years. Horse racing and breeding is a major contributor to the Canadian economy. On an annual basis, the value to the economy is $2.8 billion in sales, $2.3 billion in value added to the country's GDP, $1.8 billion in wages and salaries, $890 million in tax revenue to all levels of government, and 140,000 jobs. We employ twice the number of people as Canada's airlines, petroleum refineries, and investment companies.
Why am I here today? We are seeking to introduce a fair income tax arrangement for horse owners and breeders. The horse-racing industry in Canada cannot compete fairly with other Canadian sport and entertainment industries, or with the U.S. racing industry. Horse racing is not viewed as an attractive business investment because the Income Tax Act imposes on this industry antiquated and severe restrictions related to the deductibility of losses.
We need to keep horse racing and breeding competitive. Losses from every other part-time business in Canada, except horse racing, breeding, or farming, are deductible against other income generated by the taxpayer. Racehorse owners and breeders should be able to deduct losses on their operations against other income sources the same as in any other industry. This sector should be permitted to attract interested investors on a level playing field with other industries. Unlike other businesses and organized sport clubs, such as the mining sector and hockey franchises, Canadian racehorse owners and breeders are subject to these special tax rules. These unique tax rules severely restrict the deductability of losses against other sources of income, limiting investment and threatening the industry's financial future. The current anti-competitive tax regime is putting horse breeders in serious trouble because they cannot afford to breed quality stock. This has created the conditions for major declines in the horse-racing industry.
Here are some facts. There are now 48 racetracks in Canada, down 35%, from 63 tracks, in 1950. The number of races held annually in Canada has declined 38% in 15 years. Owners of standard-bred horses have decreased by 40% over 20 years. The number of registered thoroughbred horses born in Canada this past year fell by 47% from 20 years ago. Most of the horses winning the major Canadian stakes events are American or European. Why? Because they can afford to invest in their stock. These declines have a negative impact on our overall economy because expenditures in horse racing fuel secondary industries such as transportation, travel, tourism, insurance, and construction. It is also worth noting that racehorse owners and breeders in the U.S. are able to deduct their entire losses against other income.
We believe that the removal of horse racing and breeding from the restrictive provisions of section 31 of the Income Tax Act will create an additional 15,000 jobs, add $260 million in wages and salaries, increase taxes for all levels of government by over $135 million annually, and generate capital investment of more than $200 million.
Looking at the facts, it is clear that the best way to rejuvenate Canada's horse racing industry is to remove horse racing and breeding from the provisions of section 31 of the Income Tax Act, which is hindering investment and resulting in a competitive disadvantage for Canada's horse racing industry.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members. I'm pleased to be here with you.
I want to first of all introduce my colleague, Steve Pomeroy, who is president of Focus Consultants and also heads up the production of our magazine, Canadian Housing.
It's no secret that the lack of affordable housing is a major issue in this country. We hear daily about homelessness, about the walks among the homeless to count them, and about the devastating effects on families of not being able to plan their futures, get their kids the kinds of services they need, into schools where they can learn, and be in neighbourhoods that will provide them with support.
In Vancouver, for example, there's been an over 200% increase in street homelessness between 2002 and 2006. In Calgary it's been the same, at a 238% increase in street homelessness between 2004 and 2006. Over two years we've seen this increase, and this is not in people who are sheltered, but this is in people who are living on the streets. This is done by doing a street count one day a year.
We have a major issue to deal with. This government has recently invested $1.4 billion into affordable housing in the form of trusts, which I congratulate you for. I think that's phenomenal and well needed, but we have to ask how well this money is going to be spent and if it's sufficient for the kinds of challenges we face. When I talk about challenges, I'm not only looking at homelessness, I'm also talking about challenges in bringing workers to where the jobs are, reducing health care costs, building safer cities, building more security, and attracting the right kind of talent so that we can create good jobs in this country. There are all kinds of challenges we have, which this government ought to be, and I know is, concerned about, that can be addressed in some way through investing in affordable housing.
I think when you invest in affordable housing you should look at what those outcomes are going to be and you should find a way of measuring those outcomes. And I would argue that for the recent dollars invested that will go to the provinces, the accountability isn't as strong as it could be. I was very pleased to see that the government wants to make sure that money goes to just new housing. I think it's an improvement over the prior program, where that didn't have to be the case.
There is a desire and a recognition that we need more units of housing created. But if this government is really interested in attracting immigrants, attracting jobs, and building more secure cities, you might want to look at other outcomes that you can get with that investment and make sure you're getting what you ought to be getting. I think there are ways of doing that.
Housing investment has declined over the years. We're now down to producing about 6,000 units of housing a year versus 25,000 that we produced up until the end of the 1980s. At that time we also had, as you know, the private sector more involved, and there were years when up to 80,000 units of rental housing were being produced. Now, year in, year out, it's under 10,000. So it's no wonder we have major problems.
But I think the federal interest in housing goes well beyond providing shelter. It includes things like immigration, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, health, early childhood learning opportunities, reductions in the use of correctional centres, security, and also a very strong economic case. In many countries housing policies in 2006 are far more robust than they were in 2000, but Canada has actually worked towards a decline in housing investment and housing policy. The national government hasn't even declared that it has a strategy or what its real interests in housing are, which go well beyond the social policy concerns that provinces and territories have, and I think it can do that.
Other countries have invested because with globalization came these incredible growths in revenue and income. You saw that in Canada, which was fabulous, but that also came with growth in inequality, with income concentrations in many of our cities. We're starting to see that and understand the kind of problem it creates around investment, around homelessness, and a whole host of issues. I think Canada as a country and you as a federal government can't completely wash your hands of housing because you will be giving away one of the greatest tools you have for effecting changes in cities. I think you must look at these other outcomes you can achieve.
I have very little time. We have sunsetting programs that have to be renewed. We support the renewal of the SCPI program--I know you're well aware of it--as well as the RRAP program.
One final point I'll make is around legacy savings.
I have talked to various members about this. We are beginning to see that, with existing social housing, mortgages are being paid down and savings are being created.
The previous Conservative government under Mulroney, when Wilson was finance minister, told us that any savings we could have had could be reinvested in social housing. Savings were made in social housing, and we haven't been able to reinvest those savings. I would like to see this government go back to that kind of commitment.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Mark Yakabuski.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity today to speak on behalf of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, or IBC. This is the national association representing home, automobile and business insurance companies across Canada. As an industry, it accounts for some $35 billion in premiums and indirectly generates more than 100 000 jobs across Canada.
Mr. Chairman, I want to talk to you about three very important things today.
First, I want to say what a pleasure it is to have the committee out in such full force today. I appreciate the time accorded to these sorts of things.
I want to talk about the importance of injury prevention in Canada, of having a competitive tax regime for Canadians, and of ensuring we invest enough dollars in this country's basic infrastructure.
First and foremost, on injury prevention, preventable injuries in this country—the injuries we have on our highways, in our homes, at work, and in leisure activities—cost the Canadian economy today, at very conservative estimates, $15 billion a year in lost productivity and additional health care costs.
At the Insurance Bureau of Canada, we have been advocating for some period of time that Canada should take a lead, but we should look at programs that have been active in Great Britain and in the Scandinavian countries. They have invested much more in raising public awareness about injury prevention. If you look at their statistics with respect to injury prevention, they do very well.
We know how costly health care is in this country and what a challenge it will be to meet the demographic challenge our health care system will face in the years ahead. We need to find other ways to economize in our health care system. One of the most favourable ways would be to invest modestly in injury prevention, because literally billions of dollars can be saved by having fewer injuries on our roads, at work, at play, and in our homes.
In our detailed presentation today I have a program suggesting that the Government of Canada take a lead on investing very modestly some $50 million over a five-year period that could make a substantial difference, believe it or not.
The second thing I want to talk about is the importance of a competitive tax regime. Our companies are able to provide automobile, home, and business insurance to Canadians because people from around the world think Canada is a good place to invest. Over the last three or four years, as we improved the insurance system in Canada, literally billions of new dollars were invested. So we can provide insurance to small businesses and households in this country at a competitive rate that otherwise would be jeopardized if those investment dollars were not coming to Canada.
In its last budget the government announced the very favourable reduction of the capital tax by 2006 and further income tax reductions later on in this decade. I simply want to underline the importance of absolutely ensuring that from an international perspective Canada remains a competitive tax regime. We know that the combined federal and provincial tax rates in Canada are some of the highest in the OECD, and that will continue to be a challenge for this Parliament.
I want to recommend that every effort be done to ensure that Canada remains competitive, because that competitiveness translates directly, for example, in our sector, to affordable and available insurance for Canadians.
The last thing I want to leave with you is the importance of investing in basic infrastructure. I commend the government for having set aside a very significant sum of money for infrastructure agreements between Canada and the provinces in its last budget. Historically those infrastructure agreements focused on what I sometimes call the sexy infrastructure projects. Those are the projects we all take note of, such as investment in highways, which we certainly agree with. But all too often they are not investments in basic infrastructure, such as sewage and water treatment facilities across Canada.
Every municipality in this country can tell you, Mr. Chairman, that we are severely underinvesting in basic sewage systems and water technologies in Canada. If we do not increase our investments in these basic infrastructures, the quality of life we prize in this country is going to be threatened.
I would recommend that you act on this plan as quickly as possible.
I am Fire Chief Don Warden. In addition to chairing the government relations committee of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, I'm also the fire chief of Wasaga Beach, Ontario.
Our submission reflects the views of fire chiefs who participated in our pre-budget survey. Collectively they protect the lives and property of over 13 million Canadians. They are located throughout Canada in communities of all sizes, both urban and rural.
The title of our submission is “The Dangers of Delay”. Those words emphasize the unnecessary danger in which the government places Canadians when it does not forcefully address emergency response issues that are within its power to mitigate.
I will briefly discuss four such subjects during the balance of my allotted time.
First, we recommend that the forthcoming budget provide volunteer firefighters with a personal income tax credit for working to protect their communities. Recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighting personnel is becoming increasingly difficult. This tax credit would provide some financial recognition for the important and dangerous work undertaken by these individuals.
During the previous Parliament, this committee killed Bill C-273, which would have provided an element of financial recognition for the contribution made by the volunteer fire service. In doing so, the committee stated that it was generally supportive of the bill, feeling that “those who provide volunteer emergency services should be recognized by the federal government through the tax system”.
The committee then posed ten questions that it wanted answered prior to further consideration of this matter. The CAFC prepared a reply and filed it with the finance minister in advance of last May's budget. Last week our responses to those questions were sent to all members of this committee for advance consideration.
It is difficult for us to imagine why the committee would permit further delay. Accordingly, we again urge you to recommend tax relief for volunteer firefighter personnel whom you have gone on the record as generally supporting.
Second is our position on automatic sprinkler systems. Fires double in size for every minute they are left unattended. That knowledge led 95% of our pre-budget survey respondents to state that the federal government has an obligation to ensure citizens are protected by automatic sprinkler systems in residences and elsewhere.
A recent Toronto fire saw two fatalities. The Toronto fire chief informed media that in his opinion these deaths could have been avoided if the residences had proper sprinklers.
The CAFC has long urged that the tax system be amended to reflect the importance of encouraging and even requiring the installation of automatic sprinkler systems. Delays by the federal government in acting on our recommendation translate directly into danger for Canadians.
Third, I wish to draw your attention to the federal joint emergency preparedness program, JEPP, which is intended to encourage and support cooperation among federal, provincial, and territorial governments in working towards a national capability to meet emergencies of all types within a reasonable uniform standard of emergency response. This purpose is totally consistent with the statements that appeared earlier this year on restoring fiscal balance in Canada.
Our submission urges the standing committee to embrace the principles that all Canadians deserve basic fire protection services and to ensure adequate federal funding to support this principle. JEPP is the ideal vehicle for this purpose, but funding needs to be increased and a mechanism put in place to ensure it remains responsive to escalating equipment costs for the fire service in the future.
Finally, our brief asks for the support of the standing committee for the creation of an office of the national fire adviser within Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. At present, no voice exists within the Government of Canada to represent the concerns of the fire service. The CAFC believes that the national fire adviser would fill what we regard as a dangerous void.
Time restrictions preclude me from discussing the detailed role of the national fire adviser during these remarks. However, I would ask you to spend a few moments reading the section of our brief on this subject, beginning on page 4. A comprehensive position paper on this subject is in the hands of PSEPC. I have a copy of it with me today and would be happy to leave it behind if it would be helpful to the committee.
I appreciate your kind attention to our concerns and look forward to discussing them further with you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak today.
Canadians with dystonia are with me as witnesses.
Dystonia affects everyone from all walks of life, ethnicities, and ages. It can affect a single body part or multiple sites throughout the body, causing painful involuntary spasms and muscle contractions.
The key stumbling blocks to helping Canadians are lack of awareness and lack of funding for dystonia research. For example, dystonia is six times more common than ALS; however, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research directed $2.4 million for ALS research and only $334,000 for dystonia in 2005. Research progress is being made with the $334,000 the federal government directed to CIHR last year.
We believe that Canadians need to know that in terms of the number of Canadians affected by dystonia, dystonia is falling behind. Indications are that over 50,000 Canadians are affected by this disease.
Groundbreaking discoveries have been made. The DYT1 gene has been identified for early onset generalized dystonia, and as a result of that discovery a protein associated with the DYT1 gene called torsinA has been discovered as well. A new technology is being applied to torsinA, and it has been seen to turn the mutated gene on and off in animal models. This holds great promise for humans with dystonia.
We can't stop now. There is an urgency to continued funding. We request that the federal government direct increased research dollars for dystonia to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Thank you all for your presentations.
I'd like to begin with Sharon Chisholm. I certainly agree with you on the subject of housing. I would mention, though, that in one of the budget documents in the last budget, there was talk about a clearer definition of federal and provincial responsibilities. Housing was specifically mentioned as an area that ought to be provincial. There is some suggestion that the government doesn't really want to be in housing. They didn't say that specifically, but there certainly is that implication.
What is your view regarding that? In some theoretical sense, is that correct that it should be a provincial responsibility? What would be the consequences of implementing that view, as opposed to having a federal role, as we have had for some years now?
It isn't new that the provinces have been responsible for delivering housing programs. That's been going on now for a number of years. It used to be that the federal government and the provinces had partnerships and they would both contribute. Now the delivery and the management of the existing housing is at the provincial level.
What I'm arguing is that there is a federal interest in housing and that if you let go of this powerful instrument, which can affect changes in a whole number of different areas, including shelter, you're not looking at the macroeconomic consequences of doing that.
I think it's a powerful instrument. I think the provinces ought to be involved. Cities obviously want to have a role in housing. Communities have been doing a lot in Canada, and they could probably do more in terms of delivering really effective housing. But the federal government also has a strong interest that has to be maintained.
There are no simple answers. I think the federal government would cut off its nose to spite itself if it just gave over the whole portfolio to provinces, because it would lose the ability to do a whole number of other things that are incredibly important in a competitive state.
I would argue that you have to have a provincial-federal partnership that enables you to do that. Alberta might say, for example, that they want all its housing this year to be built in Calgary because that's where the shortages are, and the federal government might say it wants to make sure that housing builds safer cities, provides housing for immigrants, and continues to makes cities more competitive. So both interests can be met but with a continuing partnership from all quarters.
There is money left in the current program, the affordable housing initiative, of about $320 million, but that program was divvied up among the provinces, as you know, and Quebec was very anxious to utilize its funds and did so the most quickly. So that funding—I think for Quebec, at least—is completely used up; they were very quick to use that funding.
But there has been a new announcement of trust funds that will soon be available to Quebec. I don't know if there's anything to prevent Quebec from going forward with those, unless it doesn't have its plan yet, but I would expect the provincial government is ready to go forward and seek the trust funds released in September.
Finally, the RRAP program, the residential rehabilitation assistance program, is still available this year. It has been helpful to over 20,000 units of housing a year, which is a lot, but it has to be renewed next year by March. We're hoping it will get renewed, which will be helpful for the kind of renovation work you have to do in your riding.
Yes, absolutely. We've been part of supporting an energy savings program for low-income households for two reasons.
One is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and that's important to all of us. But secondly, it really helps low-income families over the longer term, whether they live in market rental housing, in housing that they own, or in social housing. If you do repairs to the housing to make it more efficient, this is something that will create savings for them well into the future. We think it's important.
The EnerGuide program that I think you're referring to was cancelled, but I understand a new program is in the works. I think there could be improvements beyond the old program.
We're very much available to work with government to make sure the program will be as effective as possible for low-income families.
I think this is a set-up. I get what I would consider offensive remarks from the Conservative side that force me to respond and eat up part of my time.
Mr. Chairperson, I am going to use a little of my time to in fact deal with what I thought was a very self-serving comment by Mr. Turner, and I think our witnesses are far too polite to take him on.
I would like the record to show that the reason Sharon Chisholm, and others from the housing movement, suggested they were waiting for the housing money--it was the money they were waiting for--was because, in fact, the only housing money in the budget that we are talking about was the money the NDP forced the Liberals to put in the budget that they didn't flow, and finally the Conservatives agreed to flow that money. There was no new money, there was no new indication from the Conservatives of a commitment to a national housing policy, or anything at all in the housing area. It was simply a commitment to flow the money once the surplus dollars had been ascertained. So it's important, Mr. Chairman, for that.
Maybe I could just make a couple of recommendations. One is we're waiting for the renewal of the national homelessness initiative and the RRAP program. The national homelessness initiative is well regarded by communities. Homelessness is increasing in our major cities, and we really have to address that. There's no reason in the world for a country like Canada, as rich as Canada, to have any homeless. I know that several years ago in the U.K. they set a target to eliminate homelessness, and they've practically managed to do that, for all intents and purposes. Canada could do it as well. So I think we have to do that, as a minimum.
As far as the other things that CHRA is talking about, we have to look at where the different interests of government are and look at the economic case, the health case, the education case, the environmental case for doing housing, and that means speaking to our colleagues at the provincial level and the municipal level. We know, from history and experience, that there will not be housing delivered in this country unless the federal government antes up. Unfortunately, that's the case; the provinces are not doing it on their own, for the most part, so we need to have a strong presence there. At the very least, let's make sure we renew the programs that are incredibly important.
On the RRAP program, which has been around since 1974, you probably all know about it. You probably know of someone, or perhaps you've had your own house RRAPed, but it's important in communities. It's well known by almost all Canadians, and it's important that we continue it. As our housing ages, it needs repairs, and a lot of low-income families are not able to make those repairs without the RRAP program.
Ms. Chisholm, Mr. Turner was having his political sport with you. The moneys that flowed were out of Bill , as Ms. Wasylycia-Leis has said, and the irony of this whole matter is that this bill was jointly supported by the Liberals and the NDP in the last Parliament. The Conservatives voted against it; however, because of the surplus, they were required to fund, notwithstanding their ideological biases.
As a consequence of that, the reality prior to that, on the budget itself, I don't think there was any.... Setting aside the $1.4 billion out of the obligation to fund, was there anything...I don't recollect anything in the budget with respect to social housing and the issues of your concern. Is that a correct statement?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Warden, I would like to talk about your sixth recommendation. You are recommending that the Standing Committee advise the government to provide volunteer firefighting personnel with a personal income tax credit in the forthcoming budget, for the time they expend performing their volunteer firefighting functions. You are proposing that the deductions be based on the number of hours they spend performing such functions.
Do you know how many hours per year, on average, a volunteer firefighter devotes to his firefighting functions? You are proposing a deduction of $1,000 for 50 to 99 hours, $2,000 for 100 to 199 hours, and $3,000 for 200 hours or more. How many people would be affected in each of these categories?
I'd like to start by saying that I'm confused by some of the comments from the table today. I could have sworn the announcements—the one Ms. Chisholm actually regarded as the announcement they had been waiting for—was in Budget 2006, announced by the Honourable James Flaherty and supported by this side of the table but not supported by two of the groups on the other side of the table, even though they're taking credit for it, along with measures to reduce taxes for 655,000 low-income Canadians, money for transit, and so forth. Those were things that were important to the Conservative Government of Canada.
I wanted to ask a question of you, Mr. Yakabuski. You mentioned targeted tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, as a measure to increase investment, and that investment is so important to the Canadian economy. You talked about it in the light of keeping insurance costs low, but it also means a lot with respect to employment and the development of resources, doesn't it?
We'd like to see that happen. Some of us would like to see that happen here at this committee too.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chair: Thank you for all of your presentations.
Chief Warden, you mentioned you were a hockey coach. I think those of us who have been involved in the coaching fraternity know that a lot of coaches of hockey and other sports deserve the risk pay for dealing with the parents of some of those young people they are coaching.
We thank you for your work, and we thank you all very much for being here with us today. On behalf of the committee, we appreciate your reports.